ABA Humane Education Program

The Animal Law and Law in Public Service committees of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice (TIPS) section of the ABA is taking a bite out of crime– crime against animals, that is.

The committes are teaming up with Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART), a humane education organization, to work with children in school settings to sensitize them to animals’ needs and encourage them to think critically about their treatment of animals.

Humane education is not a new idea, and is widespread in the United States, by way of numerous animal shelters with side programs, as well as organizations devoted solely to this cause. Entire teaching manuals are now available for teachers and school systems to consult. Many resources are available online.

But the combination of law and lawyers with humane education seems a more recent concept, although I personally know of, and have volunteered with, one such program already in existence in New York.

I find this interesting because it taps into the chicken-vs-the-egg debate I often have with people regarding legal protection for animals:  does it begin with sensitizing people to the needs of animals, so as to predispose them to new laws which will later be passed, thereby easing enforcement because you then have a population of people who are likely to happily follow the new laws?  Or, conversely, does it begin with laws being passed which initially force unwilling people’s actions, but over time sensitize them to the reasons for the laws, thereby altering their perceptions of animals’ needs, and eliminating the need to force them at all?

I tend to believe that we need to work from both ends of the spectrum simultaneously. Joint law-humane education programs are interesting because they do just that. I suppose it is too early just yet to observe the results.

For those interested in learning more about this ABA program, here is a description cut and pasted from an email being circulated:

“TIPS solicits lawyer and law student volunteers from the ABA
membership, and from the membership of state or local bar
associations, to work on implementing humane education programs in
their local schools. This public service project has been developed
for elementary school children in 4th and 5th grades. In its pilot
phase in the spring of 2009, the project will be implemented in New
York City and the District of Columbia where interested volunteers
will be trained by HEART’s instructional staff to offer a four-lesson
humane education program. We plan to expand the geographical reach of
this public service program over time.

Humane education examines many of the challenges facing our world, and
the specific lessons we are offering focus on people’s relationships
to animals and the environment. With studies that show there is a
direct link between one’s treatment of animals and one’s treatment of
people, along with the growing concern for the state of our planet,
these lessons are imperative for creating a more peaceful and
sustainable world. During the program students will consider the
choices they make in their own lives and consider how they can do the
most good in the world and cause the least amount of suffering to
themselves, other people, animals, and the earth. The program invites
students to become problem-solvers, engaged young citizens, and
conscious choice-makers so that their lives become part of the
solution to persistent challenges.

The vision of humane education is to instill in students positive
character traits like compassion, responsibility, tolerance, and
integrity and to deepen their awareness of the power of their daily
choices. We are offering our four-lesson program at no cost to
schools. This program has been embraced enthusiastically by students,
teachers, school administrators, parents, government officials,
foundations, and private individuals alike.

If you are interested in participating in this public service project
in NYC or in DC, please contact the following people:

NYC (free training workshop on March 14, 2009): Meena Alagappan, Chair
of the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee, at alagappan.meena@gmail.com

DC (free training workshop on March 8, 2009): Joan Schaffner, Chair
Elect of the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee, at jschaf@law.gwu.edu”

-Suzanne McMillan

Diet & Climate Change

This post over at Prettier than Napoleon (cool name for a blog, no?) about the carbon footprint of various dietary regimes bears noting.  Commendably, it cites the high carbon footprint of meat-based diets.  It then claims, however, that since the carbon footprint of eating chicken is lower than that of eating beef, the data put environmentalists and animal rights folk at odds.  This reasoning is mistaken for a number of reasons.

First, the world’s carbon crisis demands drastic changes in lifestyle — changes of a scale that simply eating more chicken will not address.  Few if any knowledgeable environmentalists would advocate shifting to chicken from beef as an effective way to mitigate climate change.

Second, the idea that animal advocates’ wish to see fewer animals (including chickens) killed and environmentalists’ desire to reduce the world’s carbon footprint generates a fundamental conflict between the two camps (such as they are) is simply illogical.  Putting aside the fact that many environmentalists (including your blogger) are also animal advocates, it is impossible to escape the fact that the ideals of eating less meat (of whatever sort) and saving the planet are not at variance.

Just a few thoughts for a Friday afternoon.


The [Animal] Law of Evidence

Colin Miller over at EvidenceProf Blog examines the evidentiary issues underlying an animal cruelty prosecution in Texas.  In  Vevrecka v. State, 2009 WL 179203 (Tex.App.-Hous. 2009), the defendant was charged with cruelty to five dogs found on her property (their condition was so dire that 4 were later euthanized).  As part of her defense, the defendant wished to present evidence of her past treatment of animals in her care.  The court denied her request.  She was convicted and then appealed.  The appeals court upheld the conviction.  As Professor Miller explains:

I think an analogy explains why this was not sufficient habit evidence.  Assume that Vevrecka were accused of child endangerment/abandonment regarding her children and wanted to present “habit” evidence concerning her diligent care of children in her role as a Big Sister or temporary foster parent.  This might be evidence of some type of habit by the accused, but it would not be evidence of a habit relevant to her trial for child endangerment/abandonment regarding her children on an everyday basis.

Read the full post here.

David Cassuto

Raising Duck Liver

D’Artagnan, Inc. has reluctantly agreed to stop claiming in its advertising that the ducks whose engorged livers are used in its foie gras are “hand-raised with tender care under the strictest of animal care standards.” They further have ceased saying that the ducks’ livers are “not diseased” but “simply enlarged.”  The company’s shift comes in response to a decision by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which concluded that the claim about the ducks’ livers was not adequately substantiated.  The NAD further concluded that the claim about the degree of care the animals receive “suggests a level of care and oversight that is not supported by the evidence provided by the advertiser and is inconsistent with the evidence in the record.”  Full story here.

This would all seem like a major coup — the self-regulating arm of the advertising industry smacks down the deceptive rhetoric of the duck liver trade.  The celebration pales, however, when one views the revised claims now found on the company’s website.  The statement that “The liver is not diseased, simply enlarged,”  now reads : “According to published research * (partially funded by animal welfare agencies), the liver is enlarged but not diseased.”  The tender care claims have been refashioned as well.  The company claims that: “The art of raising ducks and geese for foie gras combines a low-stress environment (birds experiencing stress produce very low quality foie gras), high-quality corn, clean water, and kind handling.”

Pyrrhic victory anyone?

David Cassuto

Update: This excellent piece on the Bocuse D’Or cooking competition (more or less the cooking Olympics) has a stark and thoughtful discussion on foie gras.  Well worth a read.

Puppy Mills — Combating the Scourge

Following up on Suzanne’s fine post about puppy mills, it seems to me that the issue has pervaded both the traditional media and the blogosphere with increasing frequency of late (even Oprah did a show last year, as did NPR).  Perhaps this upsurge stems partly from the new era in Washington although I am still (patiently) waiting for some concrete signal that the Obama administration will concern itself with the plight of nonhumans.  In any event, there’s a good piece in the Daily Kos today about the fallout both from a particular puppy mill in Skagit County, Washington and from the larger industry.  Another informative post about it here.

David Cassuto

US Air Flight 1549 and Animal Welfare

According to Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, both engines of the A-320 carrying the 150 passengers that boarded US Air Flight 1549 at La Guardia were taken down by bird strikes. This generated a slew of articles, interviews and news clips about bird control management in U.S. airports. As it turns out, the FAA has a a set of “bird strike mitigation procedures” in place in an attempt to avoid accidents like the one that downed Flight 1549.

Unfortunately, most of these procedures cause significant stress to the birds. At Boston Logan’s airport, for example, they use propane cannons and other noisemakers to shoo away the birds.  The airports servicing New York and New Jersey uses guns, pyrotechnics and hunting hawks to drive away seagulls and other birds.

Are these “bird mitigation procedures” justified? I believe they are. Although birds certainly suffer as a result of these procedures, it appears that the benefits of engaging in the practice seem to outweigh the costs. According to the FAA, more than 100,000 aircraft have been damaged as a result of  bird strikes. Over 2,700 of them adversely affected the structural integrity of the plane. Imagine how high these numbers would be in the absence of airport bird mitigation procedures. Sometimes the strikes can be deadly. In 1960, for example, an Eastern Airlines plane crashed into Boston Harbor after being hit by a flock of birds. 62 people lost their lives. Air travel is a vital part of modern life. Large segments of the economy depend on the industry. Millions of people fly every year. Surely is is justified to inflict stress on some birds to enhance air safety.

The justification of using other bird mitigation techniques, however, is unclear. At Boston Logan, for example, they sometimes use marksmen to kill the birds with shotguns. Officials at Sacramento also authorize killing birds with shotguns when all else fails. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey kill thousands of birds every year in the marshes and tidal flats surrounding La Guardia and JFK.  Is it really necessary to kill thousands of birds with shotguns in order to increase air safety? Do other more humane methods exist to deal with the problem? How relevant to the moral calculus is it that we were the ones who created this problem in the first place? After all, we knew we were constructing major airports along the traditional bird migration routes.  As is usually the case, we invaded their space, not the other way around.

These practices have already triggered legal responses. Sacramento airport officials were forced to stop shooting birds by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2007. It appears that the practice violates state law. Sacramento officials are now seeking that a law be passed to authorize them to shoot the birds. A local conservation group opposes the measure claiming that the number of birds killed per year at Sacramento International Airport (891) is “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”. Although the group understands that birds have to occasionally be killed to ensure human safety, they contend that this can be achieved in almost every case by making use of non-lethal methods. Furthermore, they worry that “[i]f the bill passes as written…airports are going to take it as carte blancheto kill birds“. 

I’m willing to accept that some birds have to be killed in order to prevent human deaths. On the other hand, I’m not sure that airport officials are going about this the right way. Perhaps it is time for local conservation and animal welfare groups to get more involved in this matter.

Luis Chiesa

Progressing from “Agriculture” to “Food”

California recently passed a new law ending (in 2015) the most intensive forms of confinement for pigs, calves and egg-laying hens.  Now, California’s senate has renamed its agriculture committee the  “Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture”.

The committee will tackle the issue of how farmed animals are treated in state farms, and is requesting feedback from the public on exactly what issues it would like examined. I encourage everyone to contribute. Its website includes a poll asking which of 4 issues the reader cares about most. One choice provided is “animal welfare”.

This change is significant because, as the article cited above implies, the committee used to be “exclusively the domain of growers and food producers.”  Now it will expand its purview to include, as the article states, “consumer-related issues… and the treatment of farm animals.”  Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, will be heading the new committee. He states, as quoted, “animal welfare issues will be very much at the forefront. There’s no doubt that Proposition 2 was a wake-up call.”

And so the dominos keep falling: one progression leads to another.

-Suzanne McMillan

Bob Barker: Animal Law Sugar Daddy

Bob Barker, of The Price is Right fame, has just donated $1 million to the University of Virginia to underwrite an Animal Law Program there.  This is in addition to $1 million he has already given to Harvard, Duke, UCLA, Northwestern, Georgetown and Stanford respectively (rumor has it that Yale turned him down).  While Barker may not necessarily be the first person to pop to mind as most likely to fund animal law studies, he has long been active in animal advocacy.  Price is Right fans will remember his vocal opposition to fur and his advocacy of spay/neuter programs.

It is a wonderful thing he’s doing.  I hope he inspires others to get involved and that $$ continue to find their way to Animal Law Programs at other insitututions all across this great land.

David Cassuto

Arne Naess: 1912-2009

I have written and will continue to write about the overlap between animal and environmental issues (and the laws such issues spawn) but what I have not yet done and now will belatedly do is acknowledge my intellectual debt to Arne Naess, who died this past Monday at the age of 96.  Naess was the architect of Deep Ecology, a system of biotic egalitarianism which urges us to “live as if nature mattered.”

Naess, a Norwegian philosopher, believed “the right of all forms [of life] to live is a universal right which cannot be quantified.   No single species of living being has more of this particular right to live and unfold than any other species.”

Read his obituary here and more about him here.

He will be missed.

David Cassuto

Why is it a crime to stomp on a goldfish?

The Mississippi Law Journal just published my article titled “Why is it a Crime to Stomp on a Goldfish: Harm, Victimhood, and the Structure of Anti-Cruelty Offenses”, 78 Miss. L. J. 1 (2008). It’s now available on Westlaw and Lexis. Also, a final draft completed before law review editing can be downloaded from ssrn here. Here’s the abstract:

In the article it is argued that, contrary to what prominent animal law scholars such as Gary Francione claim, we have decided to criminalize harm to animals primarily because we are concerned about the wellbeing of such creatures, not because doing so furthers some other human interest. I do so in four parts.

Part I provides a brief historical analysis of animal cruelty laws that will show that, although many of these statutes were originally enacted as a way to protect private property, there has been a marked trend, specially in recent times, to punish animal cruelty regardless, and some-times despite, the property interests involved.

In Part II, the notions of harm, victimhood and consent will be explored in order to lay the groundwork for the claims that will be put forth in the remainder of the article. In light of the issues that animal cruelty statutes raise, particular attention will be paid to discussing John Stuart Mill’s and H.L.A. Hart’s conception of the harm principle.

Part III examines five different theories that might be advanced in order to explain the interest that we seek to promote by punishing acts that are harmful to animals, namely: (1) protection of property, (2) protection against the infliction of emotional harm to those who have ties to the injured animal, (3) prevention of future harm to humans, (4) enforcement of a moral principle, and (5) protection of the animals themselves.

In Part IV, I will try to explain why it is not necessarily the case, as many animal law scholars have argued, that because animal cruelty statutes allow for the infliction of harm to animals as a result of hunting, scientific and farming activities, the interest primarily sought to be protected by these laws is something other than the protection of animals. This argument is ultimately flawed because it is premised on a misunderstanding of the structure of criminal offenses in general and of anti-cruelty statutes in particular. Properly understood, the existence of privileges that allow people to infringe the prima facie norm against harming animals merely reveals that society (rightly or wrongly) believes that there are countervailing reasons that justify harming the interest sought to be protected by the offense, not that the prohibitory norm was not really designed to protect animals in the first place.

Luis Chiesa

Women, Animals, and Advertising

Very interesting thread at the always intriguing Feminist Law Professors blog discussing the images below and asking whether they are “Mocking Sexism or Mocking Feminism?”

The text in both ads (for Eram, a French shoe company) says (more or less): “No women’s bodies were exploited in this ad.”

Given the parallels noted by many scholars between the exploitation of animals and the exploitation of women (perhaps most insightfully by Carol Adams in The Sexual Politics of Meat), I wonder why the use and abuse of animals in and out advertising has not come up in the discussion.  The irony and controversy embedded in the statement that no women’s bodies were exploited in the making of the ad stems from the juxtaposition of the cross-dressing beefcake shot (a loaded term from an animal perspective) and the ostrich wearing boots likely made from others of its kind.  The subtext, as I read it, is that multiple animals were exploited in the making of the ad but that’s okay because it’s funny and feminists should lighten up.  Is it really ok?  And why would that be funny?

–David Cassuto

The Super Slam: Ethics and the Trophy Hunt

It has been a busy news cycle.  Our economy continues to tank, the conflict in Gaza continues to rage, an unarmed man lying face down in police custody in Oakland is shot dead.  The list goes on.  Much other news, both good and bad, permeates the airwaves, print, and ether.

Faced with all this, I turn to the sports pages of the NY Times for a little distraction and find this story about a group of bow hunters whose goal is to kill 29 North American species.  It used to be 28 but just last summer the Pope and Young Club (the keeper of records relating to this quest) announced the inclusion of the Tule Elk, bringing the grand total to 29.  Killing all 29 is known as the North American Super Slam.

The Times story breathlessly relates the way the men (they seem always to be men) stalk the animals.  One of the hunters profiled described it as “a personal goal” of his to “harvest all 28 species… now 29.”  Those pursuing the Super Slam must adhere to a rigid code of conduct.  Among other things, they cannot kill an animal helpless in a trap, in deep water or snow and they cannot shoot from powered vehicles or boats, use night lights, tranquilizers, poisons.  They seek intimacy: “That’s the advantage of bow hunting,” according to a surgeon from Anchorage.  “You’re forced by the equipment you’ve chosen to spend more time with the animal.”

The code seems to contain a normative component – one cannot kill an animal in a non-sporting way.  Yet nowhere in this code, which encourages people to kill 29 different animals, is there any discussion about whether the killing itself has any moral relevance.  I find this curious.  A code mandating that one not kill animals in certain ways would seem to require antecedent consideration about whether it is right to kill the animals at all.  Certainly, no necessity exists here (one of the hunters interviewed estimated that he had spent over $400,000 pursuing the Slam).  The term “harvest” seems misplaced since the animals do not get eaten.  The entire point of the endeavor (other than fueling the taxidermy industry) appears to revolve around killing for no other reason than fun.  This raises some pressing moral questions.

I believe it safe to assume that Slam seekers would agree that the animals they hunt are sentient (otherwise, why the code of conduct?).  They would probably also agree that the animals can experience fear and suffer.  Why then would it be ethically neutral to kill them for no other reason than fun?  Does the infliction of unnecessary pain and/or ending the existence of these animals rate no consideration at all?   If so, why does the Pope and Young Club call itself a “conservation” organization?  What does it hope to conserve and why?

The club’s mission statement declares that it is dedicated to “protect[ing] the future of our bowhunting heritage” (parsing that little syntactical chestnut must wait for another day…) as well as the “conservation and welfare of habitat and wildlife.”  Should we infer then that the club views bowhunting as the sole reason for conserving nature?  And does sponsoring a quest to kill dozens of animals dovetail with a conservation ethic even thus described?

The ethics page of the P&Y website offers no answers to these questions.  It quotes Aldo Leopold’s adage that “A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than a mob of onlookers.”  The P&Y page does not mention that Leopold also said: “[T]o acquire a reputation for killing limits is a doubtful compliment, at best.”

Leopold believed that “think[ing] like a mountain” involves understanding that animals exist for purposes other than hunting fodder.  Most memorably, he declared that: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  In the aggregate, I read Leopold to be saying that hunting has a place in the scheme of things but that killing for its own sake or purely for fun seems per se wrong no matter the species of the victim.

For my part, I would add that writing a puff piece about the people who do it seems little better.  And that leads me to a related issue currently awaiting cert before the Supreme Court and about which I will post in the near future: Are depictions of animal cruelty protected speech?  Stay tuned.

David Cassuto

Switzerland Sets The Bar High by Expanding Animals’ Rights

On September 1, a new law went into effect in Switzerland, which greatly advances the rights of numerous species. The law is receiving plenty of attention around the world, with the media marveling at how far out on a limb Switzerland has gone.

Under the new law, wild fish, guinea pigs, domesticated horses, dogs and fish, and farmed pigs, sheep and goats are benefiting from regulations which, among other things, stipulate that:

• Prospective dog owners must pay for and complete a course on how to properly care for a dog
• Anglers must complete a course on more humane methods for catching fish
• Farmers may not tether horses, sheep or goats
• Farmers may not keep cows and pigs on hard surfaces
• Goldfish owners may not flush the fish down toilets, and aquariums for all fish must allow for realistic light cycles and not be transparent on all sides
• Any animal classified as a “social species” (this includes guinea pigs, goldfish and many other species traditionally kept as pets) must have contact with other members of its species

The article cited above quotes the head of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office as stating that the reason for the law is two-part: to “ensure treatment of animals appropriate to each species, [and] also to decrease the risk of attacks by dangerous dogs [because] inappropriate treatment could lead to behavioural [sic] disorders.”

-Suzanne McMillan

Institute for Critical Animal Studies

I have recently become aware of an academic program called the Institute for Critical Animal Studies. Based in Syracuse, NY, its website (www.crtiticalanimalstudies.org) states that it is “the first interdisciplinary scholarly center dedicated to promoting critical scholarly dialogue and research on the principles and practices of animal advocacy, animal protection, and animal-related policies in the fields of social sciences and humanities.”

The website also has links to a journal and an annual conference.  The Institute is calling for submissions for an upcoming conference. The following is information I received by email:

7th Annual
for Critical Animal Studies

Call For Paperspropaganarchy@hotmail.com

Transforming Higher Education Into an Ethical Space and Place for Learning
Saturday April 25, 2009
Yale University
Hosted by:
Yale Affiliates Animal Rights Network
Co-Sponsored by:
Ecopedagogy Association International
Institute for Critical Animal Studies
Transformative Studies Institute
University of Connecticut Vegan Huskies
Wooden Man Records
Outdoor Empowerment
Hartford Food Not Bombs
Hog River Collective

We welcome proposals from all community members, including but not limited to nonprofit organizations, political leaders, activists, professors, and students. We are especially interested in topics such policy reform and activism in higher education in relation to critical animal studies, animal rights, and/or animal liberation. We are also interested in reaching across the disciplines and movements of environmentalism, education, poverty, feminism, LGBTQA, animal advocacy, globalization, prison abolition, prisoner support, disability rights, indigenous rights/sovereignty, and other peace and social justice issues. Paper presentations should be fifteen to twenty minutes in length.

We are receptive to different and innovative formats, including, but not limited to roundtables, panels, community dialogues, theatre, and workshops. You may propose individual or group ‘panel’ presentations, but please clearly specify the structure of your proposal. Preference will be given to papers focusing on the program theme, linking environmental and nonhuman animal advocacy.

Please send proposals or abstracts for panels, roundtables, workshops, or paper presentations no more than 500 words. Please send with each facilitator or presenter a 100 maximum word biography.

The Deadline for Submissions is March 1, 2009

Accepted presenters will be notified by e-mail by March 15, 2009

Please send proposals, abstracts, and biographies electronically to:
Deric Shannon
Conference Director

-Suzanne McMillan